Bridges4Kids Logo

About Us Breaking News Find Help in Michigan Find Help in the USA Find Help in Canada Inspiration
IEP Goals Help4Parents Disability Info Homeschooling College/Financial Aid Summer Camp
IEP Topics Help4Teachers Homework Help Charter/Private Insurance Nutrition
Ask the Attorney Become an Advocate Children "At-Risk" Bullying Legal Research Lead Poisoning
Bridges4Kids is now on Facebook. Follow us today!


Scholarship Guru Teaches Kids the Ropes

Printer-friendly Version

Bridges4Kids Logo

Amy Rolph, P-I Reporter, May 10, 2008

Sam Lim collects scholarships like some students amass parking tickets.

When gearing up for college, the University of Washington junior applied for more than 75 scholarships and was awarded nearly 20, from $50 to upwards of $70,000. That has been enough to pay the cost of attending the UW -- and enough to make him into a sort of scholarship guru whose nose for financial aid has made him a hit at local high schools.

Since his own days of filling out scholarship applications, Lim has helped others apply for hundreds more. It started with the creation of a Web site before he arrived at the UW and grew into a partnership with some of the university's mentorship programs.

Over two years, Lim has emerged as the UW's in-house scholarship expert, devoting mornings and afternoons every week to helping potential university students work through college and scholarship applications. He gives talks at high schools, conducts workshops and mentors out-of-state teens via e-mail.
Lim, a soft-spoken 20-year-old who walks with a slight but telling limp, says he's just paying it forward. Ultimately, he wants to show low-income students in high school that they, too, can use their life experiences to help with tuition.

Indeed, the UW's "Scholarshipman" had to overcome much more than winning admission to the UW to move from his family's home in Spokane to Seattle two years ago. He battled a life-altering physical disorder for 10 years, underwent brain surgery and eventually taught himself to walk all over again.
"Scholarships are an investment in your development as a person," Lim said in an interview. "It's an investment from an organization in a person.

"The biggest mistake I see is people forgetting to tell their story," he added.

That's a mistake he's trying to rectify with the students he advises through the UW's Dream Project and Making Connections programs -- both of which provide peer-to-peer mentorship to high schoolers.

On the side, Lim is working to revamp his longtime Web site ( into an interactive resource for high school students around the country.

Earlier this week, Lim greeted students near the entry of Ingraham High School's Little Theater. He was wearing the purple "dream team" T-shirt that he and other members of the UW's Dream Project use to distinguish themselves from the high school students. (After all, Lim pointed out, most of them don't look much older than the students they're mentoring.)

Need a pen? He brought a handful. Forgot your workbook? That's fine, but you have to bring snacks for everyone next week. Not sure how you're going to persuade a scholarship committee to choose you over hundreds of other applicants? Don't panic -- he has an answer for that, too.

"Scholarship essays are really personal essays that you have to reflect on," Lim said. "You have to know who you are."

Lim's own scholarship essay started out describing a basketball game he played in while in third grade, a game that ended with a sprained ankle that didn't heal quite right and a limp that became increasingly severe. After several consultations with doctors, he was diagnosed with dystonia, a neurological disorder that causes muscles to involuntarily contract.

As the disorder progressed, Lim had to give up basketball for crutches. "In fifth grade, I was kneeling at my desk -- I couldn't sit," he said.

Then in the sixth grade, he started using a wheelchair.

"As a little kid, I had always wanted to sit in a wheelchair and have someone push me around," Lim wrote in his essay, which chronicled his battle with dystonia. "This time, I could not have wanted anything less."
As the disorder progressed through his teenage years, Lim experienced ups and downs. He recalls having to recline in the wheelchair because sitting was impossible and that someone once mistook his disorder for an act of contortionism.

In his freshmen year, he had a metal pump installed in his abdomen to dispense a muscle relaxant, and that seemed to help. But Lim's life was transformed significantly more the summer before his senior year of high school, when he flew to San Francisco to undergo brain surgery.

A doctor implanted electrodes in his brain and connected those to an electrical implant in his chest. After the surgery, Lim underwent months of physical therapy.

At his high school graduation, Lim walked across the stage to claim his diploma -- a goal he and his father, a Spokane pastor, shared since early in the disorder's onset.

Lim tells the details of his story effortlessly -- something that comes with practice. He intends for the story to persuade high school students to dig deep within themselves and find their own story.

That's what scholarship organizations will ultimately be investing in, he said.

"He's really open about his story, which helps a lot," Fredolyn Millendez, a fellow Dream Project mentor, said as she and Lim prepared to leave Ingraham this week. "That makes students feel comfortable talking about the situations they might be in."

Lim remembers working with one student for hours over the course of days, trying to help make her scholarship essay more personal. Eventually, the girl e-mailed him to say she had rewritten the essay so that it didn't describe only her achievements -- it also described her life growing up without a father.

"I just want to be him -- I challenged myself with him as a guiding light," said Lily Ly, an Ingraham student who met Lim through the Making Connections mentorship program.

"During the springtime, when all the other mentors are like, 'Our jobs are done,' he's still there," Ly said.
With Lim's help, she has landed two scholarships and acceptance letters from seven universities.

Inspired by his pay-it-forward attitude, Ly, 18, has started working as a Dream Project mentor, even though she isn't through high school. That's the kind of ripple effect Lim is hoping for.

"Now that you have the scholarships, pass it on," he said.


Affordable Colleges Foundation's Financial Aid Guide:


Take a step forward by taking a step back (with your scholarship essay). Don't just write about what you've done and how you did it. Go deeper.
If you can swap essays with someone else's application and there's not a huge difference, it's not personal enough. Read your essay again and ask yourself if it speaks about you and your story.
Think of a scholarship as a financial investment in your potential to succeed academically, to give back to society and to embody the core values of a scholarship organization. If you approach your applications with this mind set, you'll have an easier time figuring out how to best appeal to your audience.
Most scholarships consider your track record of community service and leadership more than your grades and test scores. Grades are important, but not as much as what you're doing with your time outside of school.
Sign up for a, or another scholarship Web site account. Check for new scholarship opportunities at least twice a week, and update your profile at least once every three weeks.
Get started early. Fill out a personal data form and give it to teachers or counselors at least four weeks in advance for letters of recommendation, and make sure to follow up on their progress. Request official or unofficial transcripts in advance if necessary.
For more of Sam's tips, visit his Web site,
To find out more about this story, visit the P-I's education blog,

P-I reporter Amy Rolph can be reached at 206-448-8223 or Read her School Zone blog at


back to the top     ~     back to Breaking News     ~     back to What's New


Thank you for visiting

bridges4kids does not necessarily agree with the content or subject matter of all articles nor do we endorse any specific argument.  Direct any comments on articles to

2002-2021 Bridges4Kids